[Open-Legislation] "European Parliament to share amendment web tool as open source"

JOSEFSSON Erik erik.josefsson at europarl.europa.eu
Fri May 11 16:53:39 UTC 2012

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    European Parliament to share amendment web tool as open source

*The IT department of the European Parliament will next year make
available as open source At4am, software that helps staff at the EP
write amendments. The tool could be useful for many other parliaments
and other public bodies that create legislative texts. The United
Nations and the parliaments in Denmark and in the United Kingdom have
expressed interest in the software.*

"Processes for drafting legal texts differ from parliament to
parliament. We hope that by sharing our software, we can at least
inspire other legislative bodies", says Claudio Fabiani, Project Manager
at DG ITEC, the Directorate General of the European Parliament, and
involved in the development of At4am.

The decision to make At4am (Automatic Tool for AMendments) open source
was taken in recent months. It was briefly mentioned last week Thursday
during a workshop in the EP on the use of XML for drafting legislation.

The At4am web editing tool was first made available to the EP staff in
early 2010. It can only be accessed by users logged in to the EP's Intranet.

*Any browser*
The web editor can be used in any web browser. EP staff write amendments
by creating files in an XML format which is designed especially for
parliamentary, legislative and judiciary documents. That XML schema,
called Akoma Ntoso, is currently under consideration for standardisation

The software saves the EP staff time by automatically applying the rules
for drafting such amendments. When opening a text, At4am shows which
paragraphs can be changed and presents the user with editing
information. This information is stored as metadata for the amendment.

All amendments are saved in the At4am database as content, rendering
codes and metadata. They can be exported either in the Akoma Ntoso XML
schema or saved as a binary electronic document.

The application itself is available in the three working languages of
EP, English, French and German. All documents to amend however are
instantly accessible in any of the official languages of the EU.

*Licence combination*
The IT department at the EP has not yet decided which open source
licence it will use. "Maybe we will use the EU's open source licence,
the EUPL, but we might also pick another one, or make a combination",
says Fabiani.

The software developers also have not yet settled where they will
publish the source code. The EC's Joinup software repository is one
option, Fabiani says. "Though maybe we will settle for Google's software
forge, or both. We just started thinking about all of this."

The open source version will not be exactly the same as the software
used in the EP, explains Fabiani. "It has some functions that are unique
to the EP. To make sure it can be implemented by or is useful for other
parliaments, we will first have to untangle some of the legislative
context and services."

*More information:*
International workshop: Identifying benefits deriving from the adoption
of XML-based chains for drafting legislation

Erik Josefsson
Advisor on Internet Policies
Greens/EFA Group
GSM: +32484082063
BXL: PHS 04C075 TEL: +3222832667
SBG: WIC M03005 TEL: +33388173776
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